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February Review: Rich, Famous & Elder Law

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February's review

It’s almost the end of February, which means it’s time for us to survey elder law news and share items we think are interesting or entertaining. This month, we’re struck by the number of developments involving the rich and famous, both living and gone. So that’s our focus for February.

February’s Most Famous Faces

For starters, former president Jimmy Carter, at age 98, entered hospice care. That got people talking about how hospice care works. As the piece says: “Hospice provides end-of-life palliative care with a focus on the patient’s comfort and dignity. Pain relief is a priority, while treatments intended to prolong life are discontinued.” What follows is general information about hospice–who is eligible, how to choose an agency, and what the care entails. The more interesting content is in the 300+ comments about readers’ personal experiences. There, you’ll see good experience and bad, and more advice from people who have been there. Another commentator notes that having such a high-profile personality announce the use of hospice helps counter stigma and emphasize compassion at the end of life.

The other major celebrity development was that actor Bruce Willis, at 67, is suffering from a type of dementia called FTD, or frontotemporal dementia. His family announced that he had aphasia in 2022 and shares the new diagnosis because “Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately. We know in our hearts that – if he could today — he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families.”  FTD is a devastating illness; it’s the most common dementia in people under age 67, and there’s no treatment. Experts at the U of  A weighed in on how Willis’ struggle can put a spotlight on the caregiver shortage and the toll caregiving takes on family members. 

Other February Celeb News

  • The dispute over Lisa Marie Presley’s trust teaches an important lesson about making changes to your estate plan: Be careful!
  • Rick James’ estate is being sued for unpaid royalties even though the funkmaster has been dead nearly 20 years. The plaintiffs say the estate has continued to profit from music they wrote.

More on Dementia & Aging

If the Bruce Willis news has you worried about whether your forgetfulness might be a scary sign, this article and this one discuss what is normal and what isn’t when it comes to aging and memory. But here we learn that dementia is not the only cause of cognitive decline. Other factors include socioeconomic factors and physical health behaviors, including exercise and smoking.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 11 million Americans care for someone with dementia–unpaid and usually untrained.  NPR interviewed the founder and CEO of Positive Approach to Care, which offers training for dementia caregivers, and she (surprise) thinks more training would help. We tend to agree. Another thing that can help: Having a care plan before a crisis occurs.

If a loved one is aging and living alone, you may want to assess whether that’s appropriate. This article includes some things to look for and steps to take. One interesting statistic: An elderly person dies from a fall every 19 minutes in the United States. You can help prevent that by removing area rugs, installing grab bars, and using a fall detection monitor.

These sobering developments are only going to get more prevalent. The Washington Post picked up on a report from the U.S. Administration for Community Living. It points out that 17% of people living in the United States–more than 1 in 6–were 65 or older in 2020. That’s 55.7 million people, an increase of 15.2 million (38 percent) of people 65 and above since 2010. The report projects a climb to roughly 80.8 million residents 65 and older by 2040, more than double the number in 2000.

February’s Best Dispute

Our favorite development involving a famous person’s estate is this one. The heirs of artist Thomas Hart Benton are suing the Benton estate administrators. They say UMB Bank, which has served as trustee, has mismanaged the trust since 1975. Trial is under way. Among the heirs’ counsel’s accusations: the bank routinely sold artwork to UMB insiders and customers ranging from the Kansas City Chiefs to former U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill and handled sales  with art brokers and dealers who had conflicts of interest. Plus, UMB never told the Benton family about these insider transactions. That’s why the heirs can still sue after all this time. (If beneficiaries have no notice of something going wrong, the statute of limitations does not run.) The dispute has been ugly for some time, and the heirs seek at least $65 million and maybe up to $95 million in damages.

If you are an artist or collector, Morgan Stanley has some advice about how to help make sure the assets are managed as you intended after your death. That might have been helpful in the Benton estate.

In Other Estate Lawsuit News . . .

  • A widow in the UK whose husband tried to disinherit her, has won half of his estate.
  • After lawsuit settlement, the estate of billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife seeks $70 million tax refund. They argue the lawsuit payout and expenses were deductible.
  • A Louisville, Kentucky, TV station pulled an interesting estate dispute story from their fault. When Charles Bronson fan Audrey Knauer died at age 56, she left her estate to the “talented character actor.” She wrote her wishes by hand on an emergency phone list from a telephone book. Her family disputed the will, and the dispute ended in a settlement.

This & That

More items of interest that came our way in February:



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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.